Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 216: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943) - Rank 3/5


If there’s one thing that cinema can provide, it’s repeated opportunities to kick Nazi ass. Allied troops do it in a number of flicks, from “The Dirty Dozen” to “The Great Escape.” Furthermore, cinema has also taught us that Nazis can be bested by demons from Hell (“Hellboy”), archaeologists (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), old Jews (“Marathon Man” or “The Boys from Brazil ”), hippies (“the Producers”), the indefatigable attitude of the British upper crust (“Mrs. Miniver) and even talking mules (“Francis”). But now I know that Nazis can also be defeated by erudite detectives from the 19th century.

Sherlock Holmes (played by the only, true Sherlock – and yeah, I’m talking to you, Robert Downey Jr.! – Basil Rathbone) is back to outsmart Hitler and his stooges as only Holmes can. His duty is to protect imminent scientist Dr. Franz Tobel (William Post Jr.) from being abducted by the Nazis, for Dr. Tobel has perfected a new type of bomb that will help turn the war around. When he’s kidnapped, despite Holmes’ and Watson’s efforts, Holmes employs his usual tricks to track Dr. Tobel down, only to learn that *SHOCK* his old rival, Dr. Moriarty (Lionel Atwill) is behind the shenanigans. Moriarty has pulled a Belloq in the sense that he doesn’t care about the Nazi cause, he just wants to outwit Holmes again.

I have a feeling that this film was generated when a couple of poor saps at Universal studios sat around, reading the bleak headlines in the paper and one quipped, “You know what? I’ll bet Sherlock Holmes could outwit Hitler.” That, or “You know how we could exploit England and the movie-going public during the war?” Bingo! Box office gold! Britain’s most notorious, fictional hero to save the day. The film’s not all that bad, for it has the same tongue-in-cheek attitude that serials from the era possess. However, I like a good Holmes story to have a period feel to it, replete with the atmosphere that only fog on the banks of the Thames and Big Ben eerily chiming midnight can generate. Having those replaced with stock footage of bombs being dropped over test sites leaves me feeling a little, well, cheated.

Watch the Trailer

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